Within four to six hours, the divided community found itself in yet another round of "Who speaks for whom in the autism community?" I linked to one New Year's post on Facebook, but generally I don't get too involved in the blogosphere nastiness. It isn't much of a secret that I'm not that engaged in "causes" and don't care for the debates.
We do not need to share experiences or challenges to support each other. Why do we so often begin with the assumption that if you don't share identical experiences, you can't be an advocate for autistics / people with autism / whatever description you prefer?
There are a handful of parents who will never consider high-functioning, verbal, non-verbal writers, twice exceptional, or whatever else they view as less negatively affected by autism to be "autism" as they experience it with their sons and daughters.
That's okay with me. Their children do have different needs. I'll support some of their causes and not others. I'll support some research projects and not others.
But, just as I need to appreciate that their experiences are different, those parent activists need to remember that the "other" autistics face obstacles, too. Those obstacles include job training, access to education, and navigating a medical system that can be intimidating.
I do not "speak" for parents, other teachers, other researchers, or other autistics. I claim no expertise on what is best for or desired by anyone other than myself. I have some general suggestions, yes, but I always admit those recommendations are mine alone. Sometimes I will agree with activists and "movements" and often I will not.
I do not view the needs of "autistics" as a singular list of shared priorities. I cannot argue that distinctions of "high" and "low" functioning do not matter. There are different needs.
But the distinctions are not neatly demarcated. I have more "high" functioning days than"low" -- but my experience is only mine. A few years ago, in the harsh winters of Minnesota, I had more low days and even nonverbal days. Situations change. But, that's hard for some people to understand.
I doubt there will be civility and mutual support anytime soon. The divisions are simply too deep, the debates too heated.
It is a shame that these debates are the most obvious trait of our online communities.